New connections in China

Monday 20 Aug 2012

Concentration on infrastructure in China in light of increasingly extensive transport networks

China’s rapid growth has been heavily documented over the past few years with sky-high commercial buildings and towering residential skyscrapers making global headlines with startling regularity. What often goes unnoticed however is the plethora of urban design and infrastructure projects that are supporting this increase in population, enabling swift transport between first and second tier cities.

Despite billions of Yuan invested in the network of infrastructure projects across China, there is a clear economic benefit to the scheme as access to and from economic centres is eased even with increased density in population. Local news source Shanghai Daily ran a series of infrastructure-related stories recently, including the completion of the Yuxi-Mengzi Railway which will link southwest China’s Yunnan Province with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries. Supported by 35 tunnels and 61 bridges, the railway line is part of a Pan-Asia Railway Network and was funded by the Chinese Ministry of Railways and the Yunnan Government.

The news source also announced that ‘China will have established a high-speed rail network covering almost all of its cities with a population of more than 500,000 by 2015’. Experts have predicted a dramatic increase in the railway equipment manufacturing industry in China over the coming years with a network of more than 40,000km of tracks in planning.

Last Thursday construction officially began on a 6 billion Yuan ($949m) underwater tunnel linking Xiamen’s downtown island with Haicang District, a strong centre of Taiwanese investment. Estimated to be in operation by 2017, the tunnel is intended to reduce traffic issues currently experienced on the existing Haicang Bridge. Constructed in 1999, the 648m-long suspension bridge is a main access point for businesspeople in this flourishing economic region.

At 9.03km in length, the tunnel will be built below the South China Sea as a standard two-way, six-lane freeway. Traffic speed is said to be capped at 80km/hr. Vice Mayor of Xiamen, Zhang Canmin has explained that the new infrastructure is part of a wider scheme to improve logistics in the economically robust region, as reported by local news source China Daily. The engineers on this project have not been announced.

Comprised of six districts, the city of Xiamen is a sub-provincial city of Fujian Province and boasts a population of 3.6million inhabitants. Xiamen was once a treaty port but is now a thriving economic zone trading in textiles, chemical industries, shipbuilding and telecommunications. Haicang District benefitted heavily from China’s economic reforms some 30-40 years ago, becoming one of four original Special Economic Zones open to foreign investment and trade.

This is not the first undersea tunnel in the area. Arup and China Communications Second Highway Survey Design and Research Institute designed a 5.9km dual three-lane road tunnel linking Xiamen Island with Xiang’an District which was opened to traffic in early 2010. 4.2km of the tunnel is underwater, the deepest point of which is 70m below sea level.

As China’s first and second tier cities increase is size and density, it is imperative that just attention is given to the infrastructure and urban design projects supporting its centres of activity as it is theses transportation networks and infrastructure schemes that are enabling China’s economic centres to thrive.

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